After phone call emails 

Even though Bea and I talked on the phone, I still had some lingering worries, and so I finally emailed her. These are the emails that we exchanged then. I usually try not to post every email we exchange, but so much was in these emails the last almost two weeks it feels like it would take me longer to relay the information in them, than to just lost them. So here they are.
From Alice to Bea: 

I’m glad we talked yesterday. It helped. I sort of didn’t know that you didn’t know Kenny stuff had been triggered, last weekend and I’m not sure I would have written about it. I think, as out there as this sounds, I’d given little clues, like writing that I’d had nightmares and showing you the picture of Kenny’s window. It’s as if I couldn’t say or write the words. I don’t know. But I think it’s good we talked because otherwise I’m pretty sure I would have kept giving little hints that Kenny stuff was really triggered, but not been able to say anything. 
So, I’m glad we talked and I’m glad you know just how much is stirred up. But…..this—–On the other hand, there’s a part of me that wants to push for a bit of growth in the coping arena, and I’m wondering if that needs to be acknowledged too, because that feeling usually comes when someone is ready to take that step. —- Is just really bothering me. 
I worry that you are feeling an annoyance towards me for not being all better, that you are going to decide I don’t need the option to email or call, or you are going to cut my session time or you are going to take away a session. I don’t want any of those things to happen. 
The little girl is really hurt because you said on Wednesday that I could feel free to email and that we would handle whatever comes up and on Thursday you said you are here and have no problem with me emailing as much as I need to. And then on Friday you said that you are having a nagging feeling that you need to push me to take the next step for more growth in the coping arena. That is really confusing. I’m sure I’m seeing it as black and white but to me it is like one day you said “I’m here” and the next you said “I’m annoyed that you need me so much, I’m leaving.” And I just don’t understand what happened, what I did wrong, what you what me to be doing. 

I honestly think I cope with things pretty good, much better than I used to. But when all the things get triggered (and now really, ALL the things are triggered, even relationship stuff with you. Ugh) and i know that I’m heading to place filled with more triggers, it’s just really hard. 
In my head, I see it as different sized cups (coffee cups, of course) getting full and once the cup is full, coping skills go out the window. So, in the beginning of therapy I had a short cup, so I was easily overwhelmed and unable to cope. Something as simple as Hubby being irritated with me, or a sleepless night or even just having strong feelings would overflow the short cup. 
But gradually that cup has gotten bigger. I’ve gone through a tall cup and ended with a grande. (With venti and trenta being the biggest sizes) 
I don’t know if that’s helping to explain. I just feel like I typically do really good with coping between sessions now. And I usually don’t even fall back on harmful coping techniques anymore (yes, this weekend I did, but it’s been a long time since I have used them). I have learned to write out whatever is going on, and then move on (as much as I’m able) and get back to my life. I’ve gotten to a point where even after a bad nightmare I will go for a walk, or do yoga, or go for a swim. I’ve figured out that when I’m panicking, I can stop and create new recipes in my head. Yeah, often times I write about it in my notebook and I want you to read it and to talk about it, but I’m getting better at actually talking all the time. I honestly thought it was growth in the coping arena to not be running to email you every time I am triggered and to be able to be out in the world, living, instead of hiding in my closet or forcing myself to go out and act like a grown up all the while feeling like a fake. I don’t often feel as if I’m pretending to be a grown up. That’s huge for me. 
I don’t know what I’m trying to say, exactly. I guess that I know this last weekend sent me backwards and has me using old coping techniques and relying on email with you to help me cope and not really being here and not really okay, and I know that has to be annoying. 
But Bea, all the things are triggered right now. I can’t seem to function well enough to use the other, newer, more resourceful skills I’ve developed. And I feel like I did the first time you asked me to do something that would ground me and put me back in my body– terrified of doing anything that will put me back in my body because I don’t want to physically feel anything right now. There’s been too many physical memories all mixed in with all this.
I don’t want to have this conversation, I really really don’t, because I’m scared of the outcome. But I can’t let it sit either. It’s like one part of me is so glad that you are willing to listen and swim in the ocean with me and another part of me is so sure that you are in the ocean but you don’t really want to be there — that you really just want me to grow up and stop whining. I know that those are extremes, but I can’t not worry about it. I just hate feeling like ALL the things are triggered and you are having this expectation that I should be dealing with this on my own (not that you said that, it’s just what I am feeling). So I guess we have to talk about your nagging feeling. 😞

From Bea to Alice:

The nagging feeling came from before the knowledge about the Kenny stuff being so activated. I can see now that all of the coping resources you have have been swamped by this. What I think I was thinking about before knowing that was about trying to rein things in on these days between last weekend and the camping trip. I think I had some vague notion that some CBT stuff might be good to try–that’s a different lens than what we usually do, but it seemed appropriate for trying to get to a better place for these days in between trips. I wasn’t intending this as something you should do instead of emailing me–in fact, I think I was more thinking that you would email more to say how it was working. None of this was fleshed out for me yesterday, but in thinking about it after the fact I think I now have a plan to go with the nagging feeling. But, of course, now that you’ve made clear just where you’re at and what you’re dealing with that seems pretty unrealistic, doesn’t it?!

From Alice to Bea::

Well……maybe it’s unrealistic. But it’s not a bad plan. I like that you have a explanation of that nagging feeling (is it still there?). On one hand, I’m thinking anything CBT is absolutely not doable because it all feels so shrinky and logical and I’m afraid that the shrinky bits will make me feel alone again and I’m just now breathing a sigh of relief that you aren’t gone. On the other hand, I’ve hit that point where I’m willing to try anything, because being so triggered and feeling this not okay…..it takes a lot for me to feel bad enough that I’ll try anything to feel better and it doesn’t happen very often (thankfully). So, I guess maybe I’m asking you to lay out the options, what can we try? (Because my default when I feel like this is to hide in the closet with my blanket and my dog) CBT? Sensorimotor stuff? And whatever is on that list, what would that look like? Is there a way to use it and not feel like you are shrinky far away? I don’t know the answers. I’m trying. I really am trying to cope and be okay. And…….Okay, I am breathing a sigh of relief. Thank you for not leaving me and working with me to understand even when I’m being irrational.

From Bea to Alice:

I’m a little too exhausted to think straight about CBT stuff tonight. I had this bright idea to make pesto with my son, and that was sort of messy and irritating, then Agate attacked Iris and had to be yanked off and yelled at to get back under control. If I use my CBT skills I will have helpful thoughts instead of unhelpful thoughts, and I will say, “Some of today was really nice, like my dinner at Coney Island where the pita bread was just right and not leathery, and then the store wasn’t crowded, so I didn’t think mean thoughts about anybody and then judge myself negatively.” I will avoid the “My life sucks, and I wasted hours thinking I was going to freeze nine little containers of pesto and only ended up filling two, and now the day’s over and I’ve done nothing fun, and to top it off Agate is going to kill Iris.”

CBT is all about finding the distortions in your thinking. It’s pretty surfacey, but it’s been proven effective because thoughts lead to feelings, and feelings lead to behavior. And then it’s a cycle of either positive or negative thinking. We can look at the various kinds of distortions on Monday, or you can probably find a description online. This stuff doesn’t typically come to mind in working with you–this was the first time I’ve thought of it. It definitely isn’t helpful when a person is completely overwhelmed and triggered. That’s what DBT was developed for–it’s CBT with some skill building that helps with such things as distress tolerance and emotion regulation. Not as good as SP, I don’t think.
Anyway, I hope that didn’t sound too shrinky. I don’t feel shrinky. I feel like a big, exhausted basil leaf.

From Alice to Bea:: 

You just sound like you, not shrinky. 🙂 I think CBT feels shrinky or uncaring to me because it’s so surfacy. I think CBT was used with me a long time ago, more around food/disordered eating stuff. Would that make sense? 
I don’t know what I need right now, but I’m just very overwhelmed and feeling maxed out. And right now, I’m still willing to try just about anything to feel calmer. 

From Bea to Alice:

Yes, it would make sense that CBT was used with you around eating stuff. We can talk about it in the morning, and you can see if you think it would be helpful. I think in different contexts it’s helpful for everybody, but it’s definitely not trauma treatment. To me it’s most helpful just in identifying if you’re in a negative thought loop that can be altered at the thinking level. Often, though, I find myself resistant to giving up my negative thoughts!
I hope you got through this day okay–should have been a good lake day.
See you in the morning!

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The After…..

So, I can’t really write about the sessions after the family reunion. I wasn’t really there and so we didn’t talk about much of anything. I had written a little more in addition to my emails, and put it all together on my iPad. Bea read it all and talked about it, but I don’t remember what she said. I remember hiding under my blanket both days, and I remember crying, but I just couldn’t come back to myself. 

Wednesday was really the first day I’d gotten out of the house and not been hiding in bed under my blanket at home, or in my closet. As the day went on, it was like I started to swim up from the bottom of the ocean, and the closer I got to the surface, the more I wanted to talk to panicky and scared I started to feel. I really wanted to talk to Bea. I almost felt as if I hadn’t even had any sessions this week. So, I emailed her.

Hi Bea,

So…….I’m more here than I was, I’m closer to feeling normal, but…..I’m not there. Not really. I feel like when I first was learning to be more present and really starting to deal with trauma stuff. I’m feeling very up and down, very here one moment and so far away the next. I’m taking things out of context, like hubby reminding me to grab Kat’s swimsuit bottoms and underwear for OT, I got all upset, telling him I had the bottoms and I *actually can handle stuff and I don’t screw up all the time*. Obviously it wasn’t really hubby I was talking to. It was such a snarky teenage response, something I probably would have wanted to say to my mom, but would have held inside. I just hate feeling like this, and I can’t seem to control it. I know it gets better, and I did send hubby a *heads up, I’m crazy this week* text, so he knows something is going on. 

And I know that this is past feelings but I just feel really alone. I know you’re here, I know none of this is based on current reality, but I can’t stop feeling like this. My logical side can’t control my feelings side. I keep thinking that I’m going camping and then you will be gone so you won’t be here for a whole week. And I tell myself you said I could email or call, so it’s fine, if I really need to and am truly not okay you will be there, but then I get panicked about that, there is this huge worry that you really won’t be there and I’ll be left alone because I screw everything up. 

I just literally feel like a crazy person today. Maybe this is better than being numbed out and hiding like the past two days, maybe this is just something to move through in order to get back to feeling like myself. But it sucks. And I can’t figure out how to control it and not be so up and down and grounded and far away. It’s crazy making to be so all over the place. 
I feel like I have a lot to say, like deeper more feelings stuff, and I might email later, if it’s okay. 

******
Alice, 

Feel free to email. We may want to put the brakes on the deeper stuff, but that doesn’t mean the deeper stuff will cooperate. We’ll handle whatever comes up.

Continue the self care–good time to treat yourself well!

Bea

*****

I’m really stuck in this teen way of thinking. It’s like background noise in my brain. Everything I do, it’s somehow made negative. Everything people say, is somehow twisted to a negative. It’s like this automatic thing, and before I know it, I’m feeling terrible and like I want to disappear. I mean, part of me realizes these thoughts and feelings are old, so I’m okay. It just feels quite present moment.
I’m struggling between very on edge, so jumpy, panicked and scared and just really far away and frozen– almost like I’m wrapped in thick blanket of cotton batting. I can’t control it. Far away is better, even though it doesn’t feel all that safe there. 


I know you said not to think about camping, but I can’t help it. I think I can’t get myself fully grounded and present and feeling safe because I know I am going to be camping. It feels like I’m not safe anywhere right now. I can’t be present, because all the anxiety and stuff of the present, but being so far away and spacey……I don’t know, some reason that seems to be making it easier for my brain to send me back to memories from the times I was far away like this as a child. Oh yeah, that’s the memories in different states thing, you told me about that. Right? So okay, that makes sense then? Ugh. Either way, it’s not been a fun few days since the weekend. Not that the weekend was all happy either. 


I really want to run away from my life right now. I just keep feeling like there’s not enough time, I don’t know, I can’t explain it. The little girl, maybe the teen, they are so freaked out about leaving…. It’s like I’m leaving, and then you are leaving, and maybe you won’t come back, or I won’t come back, or everything will be different and you won’t be you if you do come back, and I’m going to be all alone with all of this, and even the grown up me is having a lot of anxiety about being able to cope and be okay. Like, I know I could get back to feeling like me if we weren’t leaving to go camping so soon. But I don’t know how to cope with all the crap and all the feelings and all the memories and all the mixed up bits of all that stuff that is making a giant bowl of confusion that is from the weekend. And then I have all the crap coming up now, and then what about camping and all that? And I’m feeling so teen alice-ish it is sort of scary, and I’m just not sure at all. I know it’s probably dramatic and ridiculous, but in a lot of ways, right now, I really feel like there is no safe place. I’d like to hide under my blanket in your office and scream and cry and not be alone. 

I’m sorry, I think I’m just going to be emailing you right now. It’s just not working to write in my notebook and know that you will read it and respond on Monday. For some reason, it’s just not enough. I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. And I don’t want to make you upset and have you be annoyed with me. And I’m really scared that if I email you, you will email back but it won’t sound like you, so please please can you just tell me if you are having a bad day or in a bit of a rush or something because I don’t think the little girl can handle any little bit of perceived, even if only in her head, rejection or anger. I really need to know its okay to email and that you aren’t mad and won’t be mad. I told you, I’m feeling a great little bit crazy right now.

******

I am here and have no problem with you emailing as much as you need to. I had the thought: what if you don’t go camping? It’s a choice, after all. No one is making you go–send hubby and Kat and have some alone time. Maybe just considering that will help. Remember my scary dream about my therapist and my husband asking me, ” Why didn’t you just leave?” When we’re reacting from a traumatized past we forget that now we do have choices. Let yourself explore that concept a bit.

******

(Maybe you are seeing something I’m not, that’s always a possibility, and I really don’t want to argue with you, but……)


This isn’t all that simple. Maybe it’s a choice, but only in the way that it can be argued everything in life is a choice. It’s not as simple as just not going. This is Kat’s birthday celebration with my parents, my brother and her cousins. Not going would be like not attending your child’s birthday party. On top of that, is the fallout not going would cause with hubby, with my parents, with my brother. It’s not so simple to just decide it’s a choice and not go. There are consequences to the choices we make. Making a choice to not go means hurting people, namely my daughter. Making a choice to go, hurts one person– me. And I’ll be fine, because I’m always fine. I can cope with going a lot better than Kat can cope with mommy not attending her birthday celebration. That’s not really a choice at all. 


I know this was just a thought, that it was supposed to make me feel less trapped or something. But it just upset me and made me feel like you don’t get it at all and now I’m really stuck in this mess alone. 
I’m so unsure about even sending this, I had a whole different email written that was me trying to think about not going and how that felt so much better and it was all fine now, I’m going to make a choice to go and I’m in control of this all and it’s actually okay after all. But that’s not even true. I just didn’t want to be on a different side than you when I’m leaving for vacation and then you’re leaving for vacation. Because being on separate sides is like you not being here anyway, and then really being gone makes it harder for the little girl to even remember you are here. That’s just repeating a pattern of how I related to my mom to feel safe (and I can clearly see when I’m doing that now that it’s been pointed out to me), and being agreeable for the sake of being agreeable isn’t really going to be all that helpful, is it? Ugh! Why does this all have to be so complicated? Too much is triggered right now and I can’t even sort it all out. 

*******
I know it’s not that simple. I was advocating for a psychological break and a chance to experience the feeling of this being a choice. I knew what your choice was and why! It sounds like aside from being annoyed with me what I was aiming for worked–you did define for yourself that it is a choice and you defined the reasons why you’re making it. I’ve lived with the fantasy of not doing something because it’s a choice right up to the literal moment of actually doing it (knowing on some level I was going to do it all along!). For me that’s a pretty good coping strategy!
We are not on different sides. I never thought you wouldn’t actually go–I just thought it might help to think about it differently, and give you a chance to not have to suffer now. I know it’s going to be difficult at the time it happens no matter what. Hmmm, the real choice is actually about not suffering now, isn’t it?
******

So…. at the risk of making myself more upset……


First thought: Fine. You’re right. What you were aiming for worked and I can choose to not suffer. And on that note, maybe I should just choose to get over the bad things in my life and focus on the positive. Everything is all better. Yay. *throws phone across the room*

Second thought: You don’t get it. It’s not a choice to go or not go. All this did was resolidify the fact that I don’t really have a choice. Why aren’t you understanding this? I just need you to get it. This is not such a simple thing and it hurts that you are boiling it down to so simple. I know sometimes I want things boiled down to simple, but this just feels painful, dismissive or something. *crying*

Third thought: I’m hurt. My feelings are really hurt and that made me really sad, it was easier to be defensive and angry. I feel like you are wanting to make this less of a big deal so that it is easier for me to deal with while I’m gone and when I get back. But it doesn’t feel simple and you trying to make it simple seems like a very logical. I’m not wanting logical, I want emotional connection and support. I want to feel like you are here and getting this. I don’t need to pick it apart and examine it right now, I think I just need to be here and know you are here. It feels like to me that I can’t fully come back to myself until after I am back and you are back and we can dig into all that has been triggered. Right now, it feels like I’m stuck, like I’ve been paused (through circumstance vs me being difficult) and I can’t really box the yuck back up, but I can’t sort through it right now either. So I’m stuck in this in-between place. I just need you to be here with me. *wants to hide because this feels vulnerable*

So…..I feel like I’m treading water in this giant ocean, no land in sight, and I’m too tired and too scared to turn around and look for land behind me, no matter how many times you swear it’s there. Could you just throw me a life vest instead and hang out in the ocean with me? 

******

Okay, sorry…. Sometimes “trying to help” doesn’t feel that way, does it? I’m feeling a bit torn. On one hand, yes I can swim with you in the ocean and be there to honor the pain. On the other hand, there’s a part of me that wants to push for a bit of growth in the coping arena, and I’m wondering if that needs to be acknowledged too, because that feeling usually comes when someone is ready to take that step. I don’t want to keep you in a place you’re ready to take a step away from by not putting that out there, if that makes sense. That wouldn’t be fair to you either.
So having said that, I’m really listening to what you’re saying. You’re feeling mad, really hurt, and that I don’t get it. You’re feeling awful and that nothing is okay. I will stay there with you–I am staying there with you. We both know that is what you need. We can think about this other piece that’s nagging at me another time if you want to. Your choice.
I’m afraid you’re now going to feel that you’re not meeting my expectations. Don’t go there–I don’t even know what those expectations might be! It’s literally just a little nagging feeling. We would have to explore it together. But not now. I am in listening and receiving mode now, and I am with you.
********

I don’t email her back, I hate her email. She wants to get rid of me. She is annoyed with me after she said she wouldn’t be annoyed with me, after she said she was here and I could email, and now she is annoyed. And her response about being here and listening now feels like she is doing so simply because I asked, but she doesn’t really want to be doing so. I want to scream, to cry, to break something. I hate this email as much as I hated her last one. Why am I screwing everything up? I know better than to be this needy. I know better. She wants me to cope without her. Why I did I ever trust it was okay to need her? 
*********

Right after the terrible email, Bea sends another email. 
Alice, just an FYI, I’ve had a cancellation and am free until 3:00pm of you would like to talk by telephone. -Bea

I don’t know what to do. Is she going to fire me over the phone? I’m afraid to email, afraid to call. She is already annoyed with me, after all. But if she didn’t want me to call, why would she offer to talk on the phone? I don’t understand, I’m so confused. I try to continue on with my task of washing the dishes, but I can’t focus. I finally decide to call Bea. 

Where I’m at, or something like that……..

I saw Bea today. We didn’t talk about anything, really, I just cried and cried. But I came home, found my words and wrote this to Bea. It’s long, there should be a trigger warning, and probably really convoluted. But it’s the most words I’ve had for what feels like a long time. 

Hi Bea, 

I do not know where to start. I haven’t really stopped to think, to feel, for weeks now. I don’t want to stop and feel or think, because there is an overwhelming amount of messy yucky confusing painful sad mad mixed up feelings and memories and irrational thoughts and just crap whirling around in my head. It was in a box, much like the box I always used to store all the crap in, the one that is so deep and wide, with really thick sides and a giant lock on the top and nothing can get out of it— and staying so busy and worrying/ only focusing on other ppl (Kat), using maybe not so awesome coping skills, staying numb and gone and any down time turns into time to read, or watch a movie, or find a project so I don’t have to think or feel or deal with anything at all, and everything is shoved back into the box. And so you see me not using the perfect facade or not being in the bubble, so you see it as healthy, using distraction and being able to ignore things because in the last year and a half it has been really hard to ignore things. But that’s not right. Or not exactly right. But of course I couldn’t just say that today, oh no not me, because why would I act like an adult and talk to you? Instead i just went farther into the headspace of “no one gets it.” I think it’s sort of like this:

✳️Childhood, teen years, college, twenties—- I had the box with the lock on top and kept everything shoved down. Yes, I needed to cut and starve and binge and throw up to keep things locked up and I was dissociated and not present in my life at all. It wasn’t healthy. I don’t really want to go back there, except for when everything feels really out of control because that time feels like this space where I didn’t have to live this reality of Kenny and my mom knowing and the boyfriend and the abortion and not telling and not knowing what to do and just feeling like little girl lost. And that is hard stuff. It’s hard to accept that is all real. So this place of being perfect and in the bubble, and not feeling at all, it sounds nice sometimes, like a break, like I could maybe breathe again. But then if I try to go back to that, now, it doesn’t feel good. It feels just as bad as having the mess out and running my life, just Ina a different way. 

✳️The last two or three years, then things have been leaking out, and I was emotionally a giant mess and that was before therapy and maybe the beginning of therapy, and I was soooo reactive and up and down and living with nightmares and flashbacks and really struggling to shove it all back in but I couldn’t contain it all any longer for some reason (even though I held it together for years and years and years before that) and so I needed help. And then the box broke when I named the things that were leaking out and there was no ignoring anything, just dissociation and cutting and eating disorders and hiding in my closet. (Which is what I think you were thinking about this morning?) 

✳️Now, it’s like a mixture of the two, me trying desperately to go back to the place where I could ignore everything and be just fine, but it’s not working, I’m failing at that, and maybe ultimately that is a good thing but right now it really hurts and it does not feel good at all. So,I am left with this messed up broken container and crap whirling around my head, and it’s like I’m existing in parallel worlds. The world where I focus on Kat and don’t allow myself to think or feel, and this world where everything hurts and I’m literally being suffocated by memories and feelings. Except that I have been so closed down since the wedding that I can’t figure out how to really access the feelings to actually feel them or make sense of them, it’s just this undertow of yucky feelings that are trying to drown me and I can’t put words to any of it, and I try to write and journal and make sense of things and write the feelings and the memories but MY WORDS ARE GONE. And that makes me feel sort of hopeless. MY WORDS ARE GONE, I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER ANYTHING AT ALL, DON’T TELL ANYONE, NO ONE UNDERSTANDS, I AM ALL ALONE, I ALWAYS SCREW UP, AND I CAN NOT FACE ANY OF THIS. That is what is going around and around in my head. There are so many different things going on in my head, so many different parts, but that is the overall theme. 
Then there’s the mad voice. She’s is just livid over having no control. She’s mad at mom for just leaving her with Kenny and for not seeing or knowing or caring or whatever the heck it was, and she is so angry at Ryan for saying yes to Kenny even though he didn’t know what or who he was saying yes to. She’s mad that I never said no, not once did I say no. Not to Kenny, not to the boyfriend, not even to my husband. I don’t say no, and she is full of anger that I DID NOT SAY NO. She is mad that I was either perfect or horrid, and just….UGH! She is mad that I missed him, and that I was the inappropriate one, she is mad about the underwear incident and mad that mom wasn’t there, and mad that no one got it, that no one ever gets it, mad that grandpa is dead. Mad about everything, mad at the world. I don’t need to type it all here, you already read it in my journal, two weeks ago maybe. But under all that red hot mad is the little girl. So mad is better because then there are no overwhelming sad painful grief scared hurt feelings. 

There’s the detached voice. She just doesn’t care, just wants to float through life, fuzzy and half gone, so there doesn’t have to be all these big big feelings.  

There is the shame filled part, shame over Kenny, over the boyfriend, over the abortion, over not being perfect, over being nothing but a disappointment. Over big things and small things. It’s over how I am as a mother. It’s over all the screw ups I just keep making. Shame that sometimes I have no idea what to do. That I’m the one always asking for connection and needing something, and then the one who is always pulling away and being too scared to follow through. Shame for being too much. 

There’s the part that feels very not seen and not heard and that part gets mad every time anyone in present day life doesn’t see or hear me, and the reaction is huge and out of proportion. She never used to get mad like that, it was more of a sad, defeated, not good enough to be heard or seen feeling. Now that she feels some of that, but also she feels so angry; this giant huge mad, that is sort of separate and sort of part of the mad voice.  

And this scared, sad, feeling alone, afraid to talk little girl is there too. She is so afraid of losing everything, and afraid to be vulnerable and get hurt, and she feels like everyone keeps leaving, and she is struggling to feel connection with anyone because…..I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s October. Maybe because all the being closed down, and not really talking and connecting in therapy and she feels like you are different somehow, like everything just keeps changing and she doesn’t like it, and not connecting with Ryan and being too afraid to even try, and Kristin not really being a part of my life, and missing her but realizing things will never be the same again, and that is really painful and hurts. And she is really afraid you are angry or not happy with her, or that you are sick of her and her nonsense and maybe you don’t care anymore about her or maybe you don’t care as much as you did, and that you just want her to go away because she is a pain in the butt and is wasting your time by not talking for so much of the summer and the fall. She feels like you are just gone, and I don’t know why, and it’s probably really me being and feeling so closed off and not really anything to do with you at all but it makes the little girl feel really sad and alone and unsure. And of course lots of parts of me do not like that you became this important, and I don’t really understand why that bothers me so much, why that feels so dangerous and not okay, and like something to NEVER EVER talk about. 

And right now, I’m sad because I miss my grandpa, and I don’t want to go to my parents to celebrate, and I don’t have a choice. I haven’t gone to celebrate there since the last birthday with my grandpa. It’s been 3 years. Why does it still feel like it happened yesterday? I miss him so much. I don’t want to go celebrate like we used to. It hurts too much. My mom is so excited I am coming “home” for my birthday. I just feel so sad. I’m going to ruin everything, because I can’t force myself to be happy, and I have too much whirling around in my head, a whole box of trauma and hurts and pain and anger swirling around in there, and as much as I want to find that perfect happy facade, I’m struggling to do so. I can’t maintain it for long at all. So we both know I’m going to ruin the weekend, or end up just not there at all, really far away and this weekend will end up for fuzzy and foggy and not feeling real at all like so much of my life. 

Lately, I often want to just disappear from my life. I’m stuck in that mindset of all good or all bad– black or white, no grey space. Just one or the other. And I somehow always come up in the all bad, never good enough, all I do is hurt everyone and ruin everything and I’m no good at all space. Part of me realizes this is just a state, maybe even old feelings coming up because it’s fall, because it’s October, but that doesn’t make me feel like less of a failure, like less of a screw up. I don’t know. I don’t know how to fix this, or how to change things or what to do. I don’t want to talk to anyone, I want to just hide away under my blanket in the closet and be left alone forever. And at the same time, I want someone to get it and to know how much everything hurts and how confused I am right now and what a mess it all feels, and how even saying that makes me feel like a giant drama queen who should just shut up and stop wasting your time because nothing is really so bad, none of this is a big deal, I seriously need to stop whining; I have this really good life— I have like, most everything I could really want, I should be happy and peaceful and like, normal and functioning and fine. But no. I can’t do that. I have to make big deals out of things that aren’t a big deal at all. I don’t know. 

So, okay then. There is where I’m at. I’m sorry I’ve not been able to say where I am and made things feel really….idk…like we need a plan. 

~Alice 

Letters to and from my doctor 

Hi Bea, 

I sent the email to my doctor. And she wrote back. 

Dear Doctor S, 
Thank you for calling to check on me. I’m sorry I didn’t pick up the phone, or return your calls, I just wasn’t ready to talk about what happened last week. I’m really embarrassed over my reaction and behavior during the exam. I’d like to explain what happened and why I reacted in the way I did. I would prefer if we can keep this between us; this isn’t information I want in my medical history. 
I have a history of trauma, and a diagnosis of PTSD. Pelvic exams are always hard for me, but I’ve always been quite good at holding things together, at sort of dissociating away my uncomfortable feelings, and not letting anyone know I’m less than okay. Having a male doctor present and performing part of the exam really triggered me. When he touched me, that just sent me back to that very scary trauma place. It was too big of a trigger for me to dissociate away, and I fell apart. I’m glad you asked him to leave, and I’m glad you covered me up. I feel so embarrassed for how I reacted, and that is going to make it very hard to walk back into your office.
I know I need to come back in, and finish the exam. I feel very apprehensive about that. I don’t want to put myself in another situation where I’m triggered and scared. I also don’t want to put myself in a situation where I need to be able to come to the doctor and feel like I can’t. I’m working through what happened with my therapist, and I will schedule something as soon as I feel okay about it again.

~Alice 

Alice, 

I wasn’t aware of your trauma history, or how difficult pelvic exams can be. Thank you for sharing this with me. I’ll keep this out of your file for the moment, although we may want to discuss adding some information so that these situations can be avoided in the future. I’m sorry you were triggered and felt so scared. I don’t think differently of you, and would like to have you come back in so we can talk about how to best proceed with any medical exams/treatments. 
Take care, 
Cheryl

Ugh. This feels awful. All I can think is she knows, she is having all these terrible thoughts about me, I can’t face her ever again, why did I send that email, ugh, ugh, ugh. I don’t want to talk to her, she wants to talk, I’m not talking. I can’t do this. I don’t like her reply. I don’t know why. Maybe I wouldn’t have liked any reply. I can’t even think to send an email back. Ugh, ugh, ugh. I’m so angry that I sent this, I don’t even know. I just. Ugh. I wanted this to be done with, I didn’t want to keep talking about it, I don’t even know. Nothing felt okay. It seemed just…ugh. I don’t know. Yesterday, I don’t know what I needed. I felt like everything was off, and I was just not okay. So alone and wrong and sad and I didn’t want to keep talking about feeling like that, and I didn’t want to hear about how it was maybe just a pattern or whatever, because that felt terrible, and like it didn’t matter or wasn’t “real” or I don’t know what. So I said lets talk abut the letter. But then I was just annoyed and didn’t want to talk about it, or hear that I needed to do something, and I didn’t want to think about it, or why it was really a big deal, and I was just frustrated and annoyed and almost mad at you and that wasn’t feeling okay, and I didn’t know what was wrong with me or why I was so upset with you, and I wanted to be done with it. So I said ‘if I say I’ll send the email can we be done with this?’ I knew it was this very teenage response, and part of me was trying so hard to just have the conversation and be okay and behave like a grown up and talk through it and send the email and be fine, but I just couldn’t keep talking about it, so I guess I just shut down the conversation as quickly as I could. It hurts too much to think. 

And now it doesn’t even matter because I sent the stupid email when I got home yesterday, still feeling irritated, and not really thinking it, just sending it in a fit of frustration and annoyance. And then after I sent it, I freaked out and wished there was a way to unsend it. And then I wanted to email you but I couldn’t because I was still annoyed. I don’t know. I just want someone to be mad at for what, I’m not sure. To blame, to be angry at for me freaking out, for me needing to tell someone else the secret, for someone now knowing and judging, for even having a secret to tell to begin with, mad because you believed her secret. I don’t know. I don’t know what is wrong with me, why I’m having this ridiculously big reaction and feelings over this. None of this feels right or okay. And I feel like this giant whiny drama queen over this, and that just makes it harder to try to talk about. I’m stuck in my head, and I feel alone and like no one understands. It’s like this crazy mix of teenager and little girl running the ship. Angry defiant teenager, but scared of being judged and thought of as a drama queen, scared of being told her feelings don’t matter, or that they aren’t real, or something. Little girl who is afraid of everyone leaving, of hurting people, of not being perfect enough, who just wants to hide, and wants someone to fix it all and make it better. I don’t know. None of this is rational. 



Alice,

My first reaction was to want to “fix” this by talking to the doctor, and if that is something you would like me to do I would gladly do it, but I don’t think it’s probably the best option. I’m still viewing this whole situation as an opportunity for growth and empowerment for you, difficult as it might be.

I don’t think you would have liked any reply except maybe, “it’s okay, I’m waving a magic wand and you will never need to go to the doctor again.” I think, objectively, that it was good reply and you can work with it to express what you need next. If you want, we can talk about that on Monday.
Your reactions make sense to me, of course. And if it helps to be mad or to blame me please feel free to do so. I am okay with that–I was pushing for this after all!

I have somebody coming in a minute, but in terms of the patterned emotions, what I think we want is just to be able identify them as such. Of course they still feel just as bad and are just as “real.” Just not genuine, healing expressions of emotion–which, when you think about it, are probably pretty rare in comparison. I don’t think you have to worry about any of that right now. Just engage in self care and self soothing if you’re still feeling yucky. This doctor thing will pass…..  

Bea

Wednesday emails 

Hi Bea,

I finished the letter to my doctor. I ended up writing two. I don’t know which one to send. I still really just don’t want to deal with it. I guess I just wanted to know what you think– which one. 

The school meeting was okay. Nothing major, and I managed to keep my mouth shut. 🙂

I’ve been writing and thinking about parts, and may have something to,send you later, but right now I’m still thinking and digesting and trying to make sense of it. Anyway. Here’s the letters. 

Dear Doctor S,

Thank you for calling to check on me. I’m sorry I didn’t pick up the phone, or return your calls, I just wasn’t ready to talk about what happened last week. I’m really embarrassed over my reaction and behavior during the exam. I’d like to explain what happened and why I reacted in the way I did. I would prefer if we can keep this between us; this isn’t information I want in my medical history. 

I was sexually abused by a family friend for a good portion of my childhood. Pelvic exams are always hard for me, but I’ve always been quite good at holding things together, at sort of dissociating away my uncomfortable feelings, and not letting anyone know I’m less than okay. Last week, however, was different. I wasn’t aware that the student you had with you was male, until the two of you walked into the exam room. By then, it felt like it was too late to say anything, and I really thought I could just get through it, like I always do. When you asked if he could perform part of the exam— and it is good that you asked– I couldn’t say no, because I was afraid of making him feel bad, or appearing to be mean. I was already triggered, at that point, but I still really thought I could hold it together. 

When he touched me, that just sent me back to that very scary trauma place. It was too big of a trigger for me to dissociate away, and I fell apart. I’m glad you asked him to leave, and I’m glad you covered me up. I feel so embarrassed for how I reacted. I hate that all I could do was cry, and feel frozen. I know you were trying to talk to me, ask me questions and I hate that I couldn’t answer them. I wasn’t really in the present then, I was back in a place and time where I wasn’t safe, and bad things happened.

I know I need to come back in, and finish the exam. I feel very apprehensive about that. I don’t want to put myself in another situation where I’m triggered and scared. I also don’t want to put myself in a situation where I need to be able to come to the doctor and feel like I can’t. I’m working through what happened with my therapist, and I will schedule something as soon as I feel okay about it again

~Alice  

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Dear Doctor S, 

Thank you for calling to check on me. I’m sorry I didn’t pick up the phone, or return your calls, I just wasn’t ready to talk about what happened last week. I’m really embarrassed over my reaction and behavior during the exam. I’d like to explain what happened and why I reacted in the way I did. I would prefer if we can keep this between us; this isn’t information I want in my medical history. 

I have a history of trauma, and a diagnosis of PTSD. Pelvic exams are always hard for me, but I’ve always been quite good at holding things together, at sort of dissociating away my uncomfortable feelings, and not letting anyone know I’m less than okay. Having a male doctor present and performing part of the exam really triggered me. 

I know I need to come back in and finish the exam; I’m working through this with my therapist and will schedule something as soon as I feel less triggered when thinking about coming back. 

~Alice

(Bea) I think both letters are good. I guess it depends on how much you want to reveal–do you want the doctor to be more a part of your “inner circle” who knows what happened, or do you want to set a boundary about how much you’re going to discuss it with her? The second one definitely does that, where the first one exposes much more.  

I don’t know. They both feel like too much, or not enough. Maybe I feel like I have to explain, like I owe everyone their an explanation for my (what I think of as bad or maybe inappropriate) behavior. I don’t know. Ugh. I don’t want to add to people who know. I just don’t. But I suppose she must know something, anyway. So. Ugh. 

The response you get from her will probably vary accordingly. Your decision definitely depends on what you know of her and how you want to handle yourself moving forward with her–really up to you!

I’m afraid if I give less information, then her response will obviously be….I don’t know, maybe less personal or something. And even though I don’t really want to discuss it with her, my feelings will be hurt if her response feels cold to me. I don’t know. But I don’t want to talk about anything with her. I don’t really talk to anyone but you. So I don’t know. This is hard. I feel like no matter what I need to tell her that I barely talk to my therapist about things face to face, that I write more than talk, and I really can’t talk about this. I hate this. I really, really hate this. It’s too hard. It’s too much to figure out what is okay for people to know and what isn’t. It is like being in first grade again and wanting to tell but not wanting to tell. It feels bad. I just can’t explain it. But I need to do something soon, I know. 
I feel so alone right now. I know you’re here, but I’m almost afraid to feel it. It’s like hubby isn’t really here…but he never is really. And Kay left. And my mom just…I don’t know. I feel like I never should have trusted that things were different. I really needed her, and she couldn’t be there. I’m scared. I don’t like feeling like I have no one. 

I don’t want to stop and think, or feel right now because as soon as I do, I’m scared and sad and feeling like something really really bad is going to happen. It’s not just the visit with my doctor, or anything else that has happened. I don’t have words for it, there’s nothing actually bad happening. I know this. I just…I don’t know. Something feels wrong. Really wrong. I don’t know. I keep crying. Just random tears, crying when nothing is happening. It’s terrible. I just feel really, really sad. 

I took the chart of parts you gave me….I sort of…I don’t know…..like fit the little girl, the teen, the perfect part into the chart. I’m just not sure about how I reorganized if yet. I need to think about it more. I’m just having trouble thinking. I haven’t been very…present, grounded this week. I don’t want to think. Thinking hurts. 

Hi Alice, 

I’m here and very much “normal” Bea (oxymoron!) at the moment. I wonder why this week has been hard–I wonder if it is because of your mom going back to her old self–and that’s probably just a temporary part of her healing.

Or maybe writing the letter has stirred up exactly what you described–the first grader who wanted to tell. Who was very alone.

I’m glad we’re meeting tomorrow.  

I have someone coming in now, but wanted to respond. Maybe we can get the letter situation resolved tomorrow-that will feel good and scary both, I’m sure.

Bea

Emails and not okay

I emailed Bea on Thursday night. I knew she had training all weekend, and that she might not be able to email me back, but I was so alone and lost and confused and there felt like there was so much I hadn’t said in our session. 

So….things went like I said— go home, clean, get ready for Kat’s party, be okay, be fine because that is what I always am. Except for driving home. I cried the whole way home. It was those tears you just can’t shove down, no matter how hard you try. And about halfway home, I recognized this feeling…this crying, everything wrong, failing at life, messing everything up, can’t do anything right, too many bad feelings, overwhelmed and scared, can’t breathe or think and just want it all to stop feeling. It’s a feeling of being a little kid, alone and scared and vulnerable and really wanting mommy to come and fix it all— like I said this morning. But it’s also a teenage feeling, that desperate, overwhelmed, I need to fix this but can’t because I don’t know how or where to even start, so someone please fix it for me, and make it all stop. And I remember feeling like this, and the person I always went to when I was a teen and felt this way was Bethany– my aunt. And then she left. So I couldn’t go to her anymore. So there was no one. And then later, in college and after, Kay was the person I went to. But she left, too. I wanted to call her so badly today, driving home. But she is not here anymore. She left me. I did text her on her birthday, sent her a message that basically said I hope she was having a happy birthday. Nothing major. She texted back, asking me to please respect her wishes to be left alone. So. That was Wednesday. The day after the doctor appointment. Like I said, it was a bad week. 

Lots of loss and abandonment coming up. I’m sorry I didn’t know about Kay and the birthday text. That is sad and very tough because she’s taken away your voice. I’m very sorry to hear that!

It really isn’t “just” the doctor appointment and needing to write a letter. It’s…I don’t know what, exactly, I can’t put my finger on it. It’s just this feeling of needing everything to stop, to go away, to disappear. I don’t want to feel, I don’t want to think, I just want everything gone. Maybe, on some level, this is all about identity. I’m not angry, or defiant, over this. I’m scared. I DON’T know who I am. I’m afraid to try to even find out…..it just feels like whoever I am, beyond my perfect and nice and happy facade, is going to be ugly. Or maybe there is nothing there. That’s just as scary. I don’t know. 

Basically it’s about the okay part and the not okay part. The okay part has thrived because it avoids the not okay part at all costs. When stuff like the doctor happens the okay part is forced to share space with its foe. This is scary and confusing and not okay. No wonder your identity feels messed up. As we work through these things, however, they become less separate and unintegrated. You move towards health. We are on the right track with what we are doing. We may have more parts to touch base with is all.

There is an angry part…but it’s not what I’m feeling mostly. And when I do start to feel angry over how I’m feeling right now, it’s like that feeling you get when you barely miss being in a car accident or something. That like, heart pounding in your throat, stomach dropping, can’t breathe, anxious and scared feeling. That’s how I feel about this mad. It’s scary. And I don’t know what or who I’m mad at, or why, or where it is coming from. But it’s not okay. And it makes me scared and anxious. 

We’ve talked about there being a “fight” part. It wouldn’t necessarily feel directed at someone–just your defensive reaction to being activated.

We go to my parents on Saturday. What I wish, and what can never happen, is to just sit and cry with my mom, and for her to just let me cry and be upset and wrap her arms around me and let me cry as much as I need to, and tell her nothing is okay, and everything is wrong, and that I just need it all to stop, and then for her to tell me it will be okay and to have her fix it. But it’s stupid to feel that way, to want that. Because she wouldn’t fix it, she can’t— it would just be more secrets and lies to cover up all the bad stuff. And we don’t hug like that in my family. We give quick little, almost one arm hugs to say hello or goodbye, but we don’t just hug someone to hold them and let them cry. Not even when my grandpa died did anyone do that. It’s just not done. They aren’t touchy feely people. Even when I was little. It’s just not how things are. And crying is something to be stopped, to be distracted from, to end it as quickly as possible. Ugh. I don’t know. It is what it is. 

I think it’s good that you want that–to be held and to be comforted. That is the “attachment cry” part that I learned about tonight. Attachment is an important resource. I wish you could have that with your mom too. I’ll bet you will get some sense of it this weekend in your interactions with her, even if not as much as you are craving.

And really, you did offer to write a letter to my doctor, so that would fix that part of the problem. So I shouldn’t really even be crying over wanting someone to fix it. But I’m not 5. I’m not a little kid, I shouldn’t always need someone else to “fix” things for me. So as much as part of me really wants to say, yes, just write a letter, fix it, I don’t want to deal with this, make it better, part of me just can’t, because it feels too much like being an adult acting like a child. And I did enough of that already at that awful appointment. Ugh. 

We can tell the 5 year old that there is a grown up part ready to take action. 

A week ago: Sunday emails 

It’s been awhile. I’ve been reading everyone’s posts, I just haven’t had the words to comment. I’m sort of here and gone. It’s messy. 

Last I wrote, I had seen Bea on Friday during Kat’s session. And that hurt. It was hard. I spent the weekend very numb, very much in this bubble of perfection. I did some crafty things, some sewing, and the usual housewife and mom type things. I didn’t stop to think, until Sunday when hubby went out fishing and our old nanny (who is now like family to us) came to visit and hang out with Kat. I should have gone out, and ran errands. Instead, I took a bath, and with that down time, all the worries and hurt and confusion came rushing at me. 

I did the only thing I knew to do. I wrote Bea an email. 

I literally feel sick and scared when I think about coming to therapy tomorrow. A part of me is so afraid that this is the beginning of the end. The teen believes that everyone leaves, no one wants to deal with her, and eventually they all get rid of her, and it just took you longer than most. Crazy, I know. Nothing that bad has happened, I am really over reacting and this is not what is happening and that I am being this drama queen, but I can’t stop my feelings. Well, I can stop them for a while, but they come back. So annoying. Part of me wants to go to therapy tomorrow and just smile and be perfect and okay and really shut you out, but act like nothing is wrong. The teen wants to either not go, or if I make her go, she wants to sit in silence and be petulant. The little girl wants to go, and give you this insanely long letter and talk and have you say everything will be okay. And maybe the teen wants that, too, in a way, but she is too scared that you will say nothing is okay and that she has to go. 

There was more, but that was the gist of it. So, that email began this long email conversation, which essentially resulted in me deciding I could show up to therapy and feel mostly okay with it. 

I’ve copied the more important parts of the emails below…..(it was a LONG talk, lol)

From Bea: I’m glad you sent this! I understand that it will be hard to come tomorrow. The main reassurance I can give is that I’m working really hard on my own self-care so that I can be emotionally available. The loss of a secure base and a person offering unconditional positive regard is huge, don’t get me wrong, and I am taking responsibility for that. Engaging in my own self-care is the path to repair. I’m not going anywhere, and I’m committed to repairing the situation. It’s actually surprising that I haven’t hit one of these patches before this–nobody can be “on” as a therapist all the time. It’s a good time for me to reevaluate my boundaries and self-care to keep this from happening more often. Again, it was–and is–about me and my stuff. I’m sorry you have been suffering with all these thoughts and worries:(. That makes me feel bad. Please let yourself off the hook!

From Alice: None of this feels okay. I’ve read it, thought about it, read it, wrote back, deleted what I wrote, read it again, cried, tried to distract myself…..but it doesn’t feel okay. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry because I want to be okay with everything. All of this scares me. I sent my email so I could feel less anxious and nervous about all this and about therapy tomorrow and I only feel more worried and scared and upset. This boundary talk scares me. And I don’t want you to feel bad. I really, really don’t. I know everyone has stuff, even you. You’ve told me that before, and I do know that. But I’m scared. I’m scared your stuff means you aren’t okay, and I want you to be okay. In a selfish way, yes, but also just because I want you to be okay for you. But selfishly, I can’t talk to you, I can’t make you listen to all my crap, or say things I’m afraid will make you feel worse, or I don’t know, I just can’t do this if I am afraid you aren’t okay. I’m freaked out. 
And I just want to talk to you, but I also don’t want to talk to you at all. I can’t do this. It’s too hard. I’m scared and upset and afraid. And I really just want you to be okay. Nothing feels right. 

From Bea: I am okay! There isn’t anything you can say or need right now that will change that. My stuff is always going to be there, and I always have to manage it just like everyone else does. I know how to do that 99% of the time, and I am feeling back “on” again. I’m not worried about my stuff continuing to be a problem, and I hope you can stop worrying about it as well.  
Increasing boundaries and self care just means staying on top of my needs, just like I hope you and everyone I see will do. If I’m working too many hours in the evening, I need to cut back. If I need to spend half an hour meditating in the morning, I need to make space for that. If I need to stop reading the news because it’s overwhelming me, I need to do that. Whatever it might be that any of us do for healthy self care and boundaries, I need to do it. It’s my professional obligation to you and everyone I work with. It’s just time for me to give this some extra thought
You can say whatever you need to, and please do. Nothing is going to make me feel worse, I promise! None of my stuff is originating from my work, and nothing that you need to express is going to make me put up a wall or withdraw or anything–I’m no longer experiencing that need to protect myself. It’s okay!

From Alice: I want to believe it’s okay, I really, really do. I’m just…I don’t know the word. Like, I read this and thought, okay, it’s okay, she’s okay, okay. But the next thing I think is, “or she is saying that to make me feel better and stop freaking out.” My rational guess is that you aren’t just saying it’s okay, and I’m only worried about that because I am a person who will say things are okay just to make someone else okay….ugh. You know what I mean, I think. 

From Bea: I’m not just saying it–I am okay! (She also explained why she had such a hard time being present when she came back from vacation, and that actually helped a lot. It was reassuring. I’m not posting that here, because it’s not my stuff to tell.) 

From Bea: The little girl need not worry– I’m not going anywhere until retirement. 🙂 Yes, send the long letter if it feels right.

I sent the long letter, which was basically a culmination of all my freakouts the weekend she was gone, and all my fears and triggers around her emails, and her not really being here even when she came back. I’m not going to post that because a lot of it is similar to what is written in the few previous posts and it’s very, very long. 

From Bea: Dare I say I’m not surprised by any of this??? It all makes sense, and it fits with what I kind of figured was going on? Your lack of emails to me always speaks as clearly as your emails, quite honestly. I want to check and see when I sent the “shrinky” and distant emails last weekend. I will then be able to explain why they had that quality. It was indeed lack of availability on my part, for various reasons, and I’m curious to see what was going on when I sent each of them. I should have given disclaimers with them, but I’ll at least give them after the fact. I was well aware that you were suffering–but also that I couldn’t really do anything about it. 😞 I think going through this tomorrow would be very healing, if difficult. Two things stood out to me as very positive–first of all, your writing was outstanding, and secondly, you were finally really expressing big feelings about Kenny. You may feel ambivalent about that, but I thought it was a real breakthrough!!!

From Alice: Okay. Tomorrow, we will go through this. Just one more stupid silly question. You aren’t retiring anytime really soon are you? 

From Bea: Hahaha! No, I probably won’t be able to afford to retire for another twenty years!

And so, the flood of emotions and worries and confusion lessened, and I started to feel like I could breathe again.